This blog is dedicated to short stories about architects rather than focused on their buildings. Most of the stories are based upon true events and are written in an abbreviated format, often derived from much more detailed sources, which are noted at the end of each article.
-What is the best way for people to deal with their differences?-
Roger Fisher and William Ury
Story no. 29 for the blog, www.architects-tales.com; Copyright 2019 by Dale R. Ellickson
Many architects of my
generation lament that they had no formal training in negotiating. That is no
accident. Schools of architecture have a notorious reputation for
over-emphasizing design theory and shying away from practical practice
issues. Yet, the blame does not exactly
belong with the schools back then since the systematic and scientific teaching
of negotiating is actually a very recent development.
By chance while browsing a Washington, DC bookstore, I came across a small paperback by the title, Getting to Yes – Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher and William Ury. It is an easy read. At the end of the book was a note about the Harvard Negotiating Project and its two-week long courses based on the book at Harvard Law School’s Summer Program for Lawyers. I took both the basic and advanced courses.
During one memorable breakout session where a few of us had a chance for a face-to-face discussion with Roger Fisher, one of my fellow students asked him, “How did the Negotiating Project start?”
Here is my recollection of Roger’s
The natural tendency in any negotiation is for the parties to adopt a strategy where each party takes the position that a win requires a loss by the opposing party. Because neither party wants to lose, this negotiating strategy often leads to a stalemate. This is exactly what happened in the early 1970’s when the U.S. and the Soviet Union (including Russia) began discussions called the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT). It was about halting their nuclear arms race, which was getting seriously out of control. After two and a half years of discussions, they had made no progress.
The U.S. State Department was at wits end – so they turned to academia for help to find a training course on negotiating for their negotiators. Eventually, Harvard University was contacted at its highest levels and asked if it had such a course. No, none of its departments had such a course. Then, the university was asked to survey all the higher educational institutions in the country, and even the world. Again, the answer was, “No.” There was no such course anywhere.
The State Department then
asked Harvard, “Could you develop such a course to teach our negotiators?” Considering that Harvard had a plethora of
talent including lawyers, anthropologists, sociologist, psychologists, etc.,
the university agreed to try, but it needed money for the research, which would
be done in a scientific way. For
whatever reasons, a private philanthropy stepped forward to fund the project.
The project was started by contacting the Fortune 500 companies and asking them for the names of their best negotiators. These would be people who intuitively developed their own negotiating methods to overcome the stalemates caused by positional bargaining. The university’s staff interviewed and surveyed the Fortune 500 negotiators. Out of their data they were able to find seven common principles that good negotiators use to plan and execute a successful, win-win result.
The seven principles were
then taught to the State Department’s negotiators who subsequently were able to
overcome the stalemate and obtain an agreement and treaty called SALT I, which
was signed by presidents Nixon and Brezhnez on May 26, 1972.
During one of the question and answer sessions at the Negotiating Project seminar, one of my fellow students blurted out a handy mnemonic for remembering the seven principles. It is CALORIC. You will not find that mnemonic in any of the Negotiating Project’s materials. Yet, I still use it because it is a great memory tool.
Please note that these seven
principles are NOT in any way rigid steps or sequences to negotiating, such as
trying to learn to swing a golf club using a 1,2,3… method. Rather they are more like a road map where
you can begin or end up at various places of your own choosing on the way to a
successful negotiation. Here are the
seven principles using CALORIC as our outline.
C stands for COMMUNICATION. If there is a first step in negotiations, it is communications. Without it there is no way that the parties can have a “meeting of the minds.” A classic failure in negotiation occurs when one or both parties refuse to talk to one another. For instance, in the Israelis-Arab-Palestinian negotiations, the Israelis refused to talk to the Palestinians unless certain non-negotiable conditions were first met regarding who represented the Palestinians. (That is, the Israelis considered the PLO to be a terrorist organization who they refused to negotiate with.) This position for the Israelis boxed themselves into an approach with no options for a way out. The U.S. stepped in and offered to help mediate – but first in secret so as to save face for the Israelis. The first result was the 1978 Camp David Accord with Egypt and Jordon. The next step was again with secret talks, but this time in Oslo where agreement was reached that officially recognized the right to a Palestinian state. In most cases, where there is a breakdown in communications, the use of an intermediary or a formal mediator may be helpful towards overcoming impasses to communications.
A stands for ALTERNATIVES. Preferably before commencing a negotiation, you will consider the consequences of NOT reaching an agreement, and what alternatives you have to select from at that point. For instance, when negotiating for the purchase of a new car, an alternative may be to go to a competitive dealer to find a better deal or to delay the purchase for another time. One of your alternatives will be your Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement or BATNA. The BATNA is your “walk” point. When your BATNA looks more appealing to you than the offer from the other party, that is when you move on and negotiations are over. Your job is to make your BATNA as strong as you can, but even then your job is not over. You should step in the shoes of your opposing party and brainstorm that party’s alternatives including its BATNA. At that point, your job is to show (overtly or subtly) to the other party that its BATNA is weaker than a negotiated agreement with you.
L stands for LEGITIMATE STANDARD. The parties to a negotiation frequently need the help of a benchmark to validate the fairness of their bargain. Pitting your will against the other party’s will can, and often does, lead to bad feelings and disappointing results. Agreeing together on a legitimate standard will just as often avoid the contest of wills. For instance, in the purchase of a car, the legitimate standard may be the Blue Book value. For the purchase of a house, it may be the comparable recent sales of other similar houses as determined by a licensed appraiser or a real estate agent. In any negotiation, the parties will have a better chance of success when and if they seek, find and agree upon a legitimate standard.
O stands for OPTIONS. Here is where a good imagination comes in handy. Brainstorming other options for agreement may help close a deal. For instance, there was a pizza restaurant owner who wanted to move to a new ground-floor space in an office building with a lot of hungry workers, but the asking rent was too high. In exchange for a reduced rent, the pizza restaurant promised to attach a flier to every take-out box of pizza delivered outside of the office building advertising the benefits of the new office building and its other retail tenants. Thus, the landlord received a lot of free advertising that justified the reduction in the restaurant’s rent. Finding an option that works for both parties separates the creative negotiator from the herd.
R stands for RELATIONSHIPS. An adage in negotiating circles is “be soft on relationships and hard on the issues.” A sure way to destroy the chances for a win-win outcome is to attack the other party. Do not ignore personal attacks by the other party – when necessary, stop them by negotiating relationships before continuing discussions about any other issues! My philosophy is that the first rule of negotiations is to protect the relationships. In another situation, one party will suddenly make friendly overtures to the other party, but the gestures are not heartfelt and are a strategy to exchange good relationships for a tangible benefit. For instance, the underlying message may be, “I will be your friend if you buy my used car at the price I want.” Do not trade relationships for substance.
I stands for INTERESTS. Each party has intangible interests that must not be obscured by its bargaining position. Focus on the interests rather than the positions. “The basic problem in a negotiation lies not in conflicting positions, but in the conflict between each side’s needs, desire, concerns, and fears.” Use brainstorming to create a list of interest for you, and then a list for your opposition. For example, maybe the opposing party has a time constraint that may mean more to them than money. By comprehending where each party’s interests meet, or are in conflict, you will have a better understanding about how to achieve a workable agreement.
C stands for CLOSURE. Closure means what it says – bring all matters to a conclusion. This is not easy for everybody because sometime there is a reluctance to end. Just stop talking. Then, ask questions of the other party like, “Are you satisfied? What more do you need or want? Can we now sign our agreement?” and so on. Tie up the loose ends!
 Roger Fisher (1922-2012) was an attorney and professor at Harvard Law School.
Ury (1953- ) is a trained doctor of
anthropologist and negotiator.
 I took
the courses on negotiating after an especially difficult several years of
negotiating with the Associated General Contractor (AGC) to obtain their
eventual endorsement of AIA’s 1987 edition of its General Conditions , Document
 After several more years of study and refinement, Getting to Yes… was first published in 1981. Subsequent editions were published in 1991 and 2001 that were edited by Bruce Patton.
page 40 of Getting to Yes… by
Fisher and Ury with Patton as editor, 2nd edition, Penguin Books,1991.
Blog story no. 28 for www.architects-tales.com, Copyright 2019 by Dale R. Ellickson
It was a typical hot and muggy day in Atlanta when the bulldozer
was driven off the flat bed trailer and sent to clear the site for a new
shopping center. As the dozer began
cutting through the ground vegetation, it started sinking lower and lower until
it was completely gone from sight – driver and all.
Sketch of dozer sinking into kudzu
The construction superintendent and his surveyor’s crew
scrambled towards the sound of the still rumbling dozer engine and found that
they were running down a steep embankment. When they reached the driver, he was
completely covered with vines and their leaves. They realized that the dozer had
plowed into a field of kudzu.
Kudzu is a non-native plant first introduced to the United
States at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia at the Japanese
Pavilion. Later, in the 1930’s, the
invasive vine was given to Southern farmers to stop soil erosion. It was found to grow fast, about a foot
per day, and to cover anything in its path – telephone poles, discarded cars,
and even whole trees.
The kudzu at
the shopping center site had grown to a common height disguising a deep ravine
and making the terrain appear to be flat.
As soon as he
could, the superintendent telephoned his office with the bad news. The
president of the construction firm, in turn, called the architect complaining
about the site and demanding a change order to pay for the firm’s unanticipated
expense for additional fill dirt. The
architect in response asked the contractor if anyone in their firm had visited
the site or examined the site drawings (that showed the site’s steep contours)
before they submitted a bid.
“No, we just
had a drive by,” said the contractor.
was an intense argument among the contractor, owner and architect over the
substantial expense to create a level site. In the end, the site drawings,
which were part of the contract documents, convinced the contractor that he had
made a mistake and would have to swallow the cost for the fill dirt.
Bernard “Rocky” Rothschild on the left speaking to William Stanley Parker on the right
this same story was told to the AIA’s national Documents Committee by Atlanta architect,
Bernard “Rocky” Rothschild, FAIA. He
suggested that a new clause should be added to AIA Document A201, General Conditions of the Contract for
Construction.Today, that clause reads:
the Contract by the Contractor is a representation that the Contractor has
visited the site, become generally familiar with local conditions under which
the Work is to be performed and correlated personal observations with
requirements of the Contract Documents.
Many of the provisions in A201 are supported by real life
stories, but few are as entertaining as Rocky’s.
Some people have disparagingly said that architects only produce “pretty drawings.” If that were the case, very few buildings would be built to look like those pretty drawings. Architects realized long ago that they had to have a significant part in the whole process from design to completion of the construction. Thus, they needed to be involved in the drafting of the owner’s contract with the general contractor. Today, the typical construction contract assembled and administered by an architect consists of many pages of documents. They include at least the following six groups of documents:
Owner-Contractor Agreement form that adopts by reference all the other documents into it.
General Conditions of the Contract for Construction with project-specific modifications added by Supplementary or Special Conditions.
Addendum to facilitate corrections to the documents before the agreement is signed.
Specifications, which are the written technical requirements for products and systems. They are also one part of the two parts of the Construction Documents.
Drawings, which are often referred to as “working drawings” or even “blueprints.” They are the other part of the Construction Documents.
Change Orders, Change Directives and other Modifications to the construction contract
Rocky suggested changes to the General Conditions because he
and his associates knew that such a change would by practice be implemented
nation-wide through the common usage of those General Conditions.
– ” A woman with organization skills can run a construction company without ever picking up a hammer and nail.” –
Blog story 27 for www. architects-tales.com, Copyrighted 2019 by Dale R. Ellickson
Avis and Dean Hilfinger, FAIA, with their medals for the Senior Doubles Championship title in 1997
The day started like any ordinary workday in 1966.
In the early twilight, Dean Hilfinger arose, showered,
combed his crew-cut, and
dressed in an architect’s customary business attire – a blue blazer with gray
or brown slacks. Then, he caught a train
from Bloomington, IL to Chicago where he flew from there to Washington’s
National Airport. He arrived by taxi at The
Octagon, the national headquarters of The American Institute of Architect (AIA)
– just in time for a quick bite of lunch in the dining room. Dean had been summoned for a special meeting
of the AIA’s board/officers with representatives of the Associated General
Milling around the large, 40-person conference table, where
sandwiches were being served, were architects from all corners of the country.
Some of them he recognized from his previous visits with the board and from his
involvement with AIA’s Documents Review Committee. He saw and greeted Sam Spencer, the legal
counsel to the AIA.
Sam said to Dean, “I understand that AGC was invited to
lunch, but that they declined and would rather meet us after lunch. They must
have a lot to discuss among themselves beforehand. This is going to be a serious meeting.”
AIA’s Octogon House in Washington, DC
Sam had been AIA’s counsel since he returned to private law practice
after his term as one of three top administrators appointed by President
Eisenhower to oversee the city of Washington, DC, which predated the mayor/council
form of government. Frank
Whalen, Sam’s partner, accompanied him as an observer. Also, present were representatives from
Victor O. Schinnerer Co./Continental Insurance, who at that time provided
professional liability insurance to most American architects and engineers.
Dean had a central role in the board’s meeting as the
immediate past-chairman of AIA’s Documents Review Committee. The committee had added a new indemnification
clause to the recently published 1966 edition of AIA Document A201, General Conditions of the Contract for
Construction. The clause required the general contractor to indemnify the
owner AND the architect/engineer against third-party claims, especially those
claims made by injured construction workers employed by the general contractor
or a subcontractor.
For the first time in forty years, the AGC refused to
endorse A201 on behalf of its members.
Rumors were now wide-spread that contractors were refusing to bid on,
and were boycotting, projects that used A201-1966, which was then currently used
on, or emulated by, 80% of public and private construction work in the U.S.
The threat of a nation-wide boycott was real, and it was the
reason for the meeting.
For a moment, Dean reflected about the Illinois court case, Miller vs. Dewitt, that was the impetus for the new indemnification clause. The facts of the case were:
An expansion of an existing school gymnasium
required the removal of structural steel components and one wall in order to
lengthen the gym.
When three steelworkers cut the existing columns
and removed the last bolt holding them to a roof truss, the temporary
tubular-steel scaffolding under the roof truss gave way and the roof collapsed
The trial court found the architect liable for negligence for
not inspecting the scaffolding and not stopping the unsafe work, but the
intermediate appellate court added that an indemnification clause between the
general contractor and architect might have been enforced.
The situation in Illinois was somewhat unique because of its Structural Work Act (a.k.a., scaffolding law). That statute had been enacted in 1907 in reaction to a series of tragic scaffolding collapses. Its purpose was to give workers who were injured due to dangerous work conditions a right to sue their employers who were “in charge of” the construction by eliminating the common law employer’s defenses that: 1.) the injured employee had assumed the risk for the dangerous work or 2.) the employee had been contributorily negligent. Before the Structural Work Act, those defenses had the effect of immunizing employers from liability.
Yet, by 1911 many states including Illinois enacted worker’s compensation laws, and as a result, virtually eliminated suits filed under that state’s Structural Work Act because workers were now guaranteed a right of recovery for damages in return for renewed immunity for the employers who purchased the insurance required by the law. This situation was stable until 1952 when the Illinois courts ruled that the prohibition in the Structural Work Act against third party suits was unconstitutional. Consequently, workers now had two sources for recovery of damages: first, worker’s compensation insurance, and second, the scaffolding act. Also, remember that the architect’s privity defense had nearly evaporated with such cases as Day v. U.S. National Radiator (see my blog story, Crisis in the Profession). Thus, the situation was ripe for the Miller v. Dewitt case.
* * *
A bustle of activity at the entrance to the dining room
interrupted Dean’s musings. He realized
that the delegation from AGC had just arrived and was being greeted with
handshakes and introductions by AIA’s president and executive vice
president. Men in dark suits began emerging
through the doorway and taking positions on one side of the long conference
table. Dean’s automatic reaction was to
start counting the dark suits – one, two, three, four, five…
“What’s going on?” Dean said to himself. “I thought AGC was sending a small
…six, seven, eight, nine, ten…. The dark suits kept coming. … eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen,
fifteen… He counted over twenty dark suits, which include AGC staff and
consultants. All were grim faced. AGC had sent its ENTIRE board of directors to
face off with AIA’s board.
After everybody was seated and introductions were made,
AIA’s president turned to Dean and asked him to explain the reasons for the new
indemnification clause, which he did. In response, AGC’s president insisted
that the clause must be deleted or otherwise the boycott would grow to a point
where the construction industry would be shut down nation-wide. He introduced a representative of a major business
insurer for contractors.
The insurer told them that his company and most other commercial insurance carriers would not cover a contractor who agreed to work under A201-1966, unless the indemnification clause was deleted or modified.
At this point, representatives of Schinnerer Co. jumped in and explained that the situation in Illinois made the architect, and its professional liability insurer, the guarantor of the contractor’s performance. Because of loopholes allowing lawsuits against third parties in the workers’ compensation law and Illinois’ Structural Work Act, the Miller vs. Dewitt case now makes the architect (and engineer) the target for every construction worker’s injury claim.
Several AGC members responded in turn, and in very heated tones, that the situation was intolerable and was getting out of control. “We’re in the construction business and not the indemnification business,” said one of the contractors.
When it became clear to some cooler heads in the room that the dispute was actually between the contractors’ insurance companies and professional liability insurance companies, someone suggested a compromise: re-write the indemnification clause so that contractors can obtain commercially available insurance to cover that new provision. Sam Spencer was tasked with the re-write, and business cards were exchanged with the insurance representatives to verify that a re-drafted indemnification clause could be insured. The meeting was adjourned. Subsequently, another edition of A201 was published in 1967 that satisfied AGC.
The Miller vs. Dewitt case went on to be heard by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1967, which to the shock of AIA and Schinnerer Co. ratified the lower court rulings against the architect. For the next thirty or so years, Illinois became a hot bed of litigation between injured construction workers and design professionals. Defense counsels for the A/E community became very skillful at thwarting such claims despite the precedence set by Miller vs. Dewitt, which was partially muted by AIA’s dropping the architect’s power to stop the contractor’s work in the 1970 edition of A201. Finally, in 1995 the Illinois Structural Work Act was repealed with the welcomed help of the steel workers union, which realized that the years of litigation were a waste of valuable resources.
Dean Hilfinger continued to travel back and forth to
Washington, DC, to work on the drafting of AIA documents over the next twenty
years, concluding with his chairmanship of the task group that wrote the 1987
edition of A201. He died in January
The indemnification clause was tinkered with slightly with each new edition of A201 to please the contractors. For added measure in the time since the 1966 dispute, the AGC lobbied for, and often obtained, anti-indemnification legislation in many states so as to nullify indemnifications clauses that attempt to exceed the requirments of their insurance coverage. When AIA suggested in 1997 that clause could be deleted as it was marginally helpful to owners and architects, the AGC opposed the change because they found it useful in disputes and negotiations with subcontractors who were also bound by the provision as it was adopted by reference into their subcontract agreements.
Questions for the reader
Was AIA’s addition of an indemnification clause helpful to the architect?
What mischef has the clause caused?
What happens in some states when the indemnification clause is drafted too agressively and harshly?
Next blog story: Rocky’s Clause
 His hairstyle
was a likely left over from his WW II experience as an officer in the Civil
Engineers Corp. of the Navy in the Pacific theater. Dean was also an
accomplished violinist and a champion tennis player well into his eighties.
Spencer’s grandfather was the founder and president of Southern RR Co., which
with the help of J.P. Morgan agglomerated the badly damage rail systems of the
South after the Civil War, creating one large regional entity.
parties agreed to add the following new provision to the indemnification
“4.18.3 The obligations of the Contractor under this
Paragraph 4.18 shall not extend to the liability of the Architect, his agents
or employees arising out of (1) the preparation or approval of maps, drawings,
opinions, reports, surveys, Change Orders, designs or specifications, or (2)
the giving of or the failure to give directions or instructions by the
Architect, his agents or employees provided such giving or failure to give is
the primary cause of the injury or damages.”
 For the
first ten years of its presence in AIA documents, NO owner or architect
benefited from any subsequent appellate court rulings based upon the
indemnification clause in A201.
According to AIA Legal Citator, most
of the litigation over the clause continues to be between general contractors
and their subcontractors.
 Much of
the substance about the AIA/AGC meeting was told to me by Dean Hilfinger.
Contractor’s specification: Pound to Fit, Paint to Match
Blog Story No. 26 for www.architects-tales.com, Copyrighted 2019 by Dale R. Ellickson
It is hard to say when the crisis began. Although by the post-war year of 1950, architects and their lawyers sensed a significant change was in the wind. Up until that time, architects seldom faced law suits by their clients or by third parties due to a set of legal barriers put in place long ago by English common law.
First, there was the legal concept that whenever the owner accepted the building, usually by occupying it, the owner waived any claims not previously made against the architect. Second, no third party could have standing to sue the architect because it lacked “privity” of contract and any tort exposure to third party law suit evaporated when the project was completed.
Winds of Change
Arguments among lawyers, law teachers, and juris about the so-called “acceptance” waiver began to crystalize by 1892 with the formation of a reform movement under the umbrella of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL), whose aim was to strip away ancient barriers to cross-border commercial exchanges between the various States. One of the first fruits of NCCUSL was the publication of the Uniform Sales Act in 1906, but by 1947 only 34 States of the then 48 States had adopted a form of that model act. Most of the resistance was in the southern States. In reaction, a renewed push to create a comprehensive model for commercial exchanges, including banking transactions, started during World War II and culminated in 1951 with the publication of the first edition of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). Subsequently, a version of the UCC has been adopted into law by every State of the union.
The UCC takes the liberal view that a purchaser, including the owner, merely must give a general notice to the seller – and by analogy to the architect – that a claim might be made after completion of the transaction. Eventually, even the preliminary notice was dropped and replaced by a warranty from the seller of goods. Before publication of the new UCC, lawyers for architects began warning them that a significant change in the legal climate was about to occur, and that the waiver by acceptance would no longer protect them against law suits. Architects in turn raised alarms with the AIA, which sought to recommend an insurance program to protect them against the potential claims from clients, including to pay for the legal fees of defense counsels for architects.
See my blog story, CHANCE MEETING, about the creation in 1956-57 of the very first program of professional liability insurance in the world.
That program was barely in place when an onslaught of cases by third parties against architects and engineers threatened to bankrupt it. The first came from Louisiana around 1956-7. In the case of Day v. National U.S. Radiator, a plumber’s widow, who was left with two orphaned children, sued a boiler manufacturer and an architect for the wrongful death of her husband, who was scalded to death when a water boiler exploded during its very first start-up while the building was under construction. (An appellate court later observed that had the plumbing subcontractor installed a pressure relief valve as required by the architect’s specification – the accident might never have happened.)
The construction contractor and the plumber’s direct employer were off the hook because of statutory immunity given them in exchange for their procurement of worker’s insurance coverage mandated under the workers’ compensation laws in that state – and now in every state in the country. The widow received $9,000 from the insurance company. Even in that era, that amount was not enough to compensate for her husband’s remaining, lost life-time wages – thus, giving her a real, and desperate, incentive to pursue other avenues to recoup the damages. Her lawyer advised her that those same workers’ compensation laws permitted injured workers and their estates to sue ANY third party who may have been responsible, even in small part, for their damages.
The trial court found that the architect’s agreement with the owner (a governmental entity) and the general conditions of the contract for construction required the architect to exercise “supervision of the execution of the work” , and on that basis, it found the architect liable for $60,000 in damages. On appeal, the intermediate appellate court ratified the trial court’s ruling and increased the damages to $80,000! Both courts completely ignored the architect’s privity defense. The case was next appealed to Louisiana’s Supreme Court.
Interest in the Day case was very high among architects, engineers and their new, and only, professional liability insurer. The AIA board of directors promptly authorized another joint committee with the engineers as well as the preparation of amicus briefs by its lawyers for submittal to the Louisiana courts.
AIA/EJC Committee vs. William Stanley Parker
The EJC, which stands for Engineers Joint Counsel, was composed of representatives from seven different engineers’ associations. The AIA was represented by four architects appointed by the AIA board. Legal counsel was provided by John R. Clark of the Philadelphia firm, Decker Price & Rhoads. One of the charges given the joint committee was to examine the standard contracts published by the AIA and make appropriate recommendations for changes. Conspicuously absent from the committee was the Boston architect, William Stanley Parker, FAIA.
Parker was the long-standing Consultant to the Institute on Contract Procedures having been involved with AIA’s General Conditions of the Contract for Construction since its second edition in 1915 up through its sixth edition in 1958. He had been elected to national office as Secretary of the AIA from 1917-1923. He was an 1899 graduate of Harvard, member of Boston City Planning Board, and various other local, state and national committees. In 1954, Parker and attorney Faneuil Adams co-wrote the then definitive guidebook, The AIA Standard Contract Forms and The Law. He was a contributing author of over 32 articles in the AIA Journal magazine about contracts from 1949 to 1961. He was a recent widower.
William Stanley Parker was a true Boston Brahmin. Always standing straight, and always in a three-piece, woolen tweed suit – even on the hottest day at an AIA convention in some southern city. [Note: architects of Parker’s era seemed to prefer the formality of using three names, such as Richard Morris Hunt who was one of the founders of the AIA and Frank Lloyd Wright who actually changed his middle name to adopt his mother’s family name instead.]
Bernard B. “Rocky” Rothschild, FAIA and William Stanley Parker, FAIA At AIA National Convention cir. 1958. Picture given by Rocky to DRE
We do not know the reason why he was not invited to participate on the AIA/EJC Committee. We do know that Parker was adamantly opposed to their recommendation to change the AIA document language. John R. Clark had pointed out that “supervision” and “superintendence” were synonyms in Webster’s dictionary. They could cause a court to confuse the architect’s duties with the contractor’s duties in AIA’s General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, where the two terms are used to designate the separate roles of the architect and contractor. Clark recommended the substitution of the terms “observe” and “observation” for “supervision” in the owner-architect agreement and the General Conditions. The AIA board sided with Clark and had the standard documents changed to meet his recommendations in the 1961 editions of the AIA documents.
Parker was furious. He requested an audience with the delegates to the AIA convention in Philadelphia. Four days before his presentation, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the Day case and ruled in favor of the architect. On April 28, 1961 – the last day of the convention – Parker spoke to the convention. He said, “I would regret it if the members of the Institute should assume that I approve and have been responsible for the amendments recently approved and that are included in what will shortly be available as the 7th Edition (of AIA Document A201, General Conditions of the Contract for Construction). They have been adopted in spite of my opposition.”
He went on to predict that the change adopting the term, observation, “tends to belittle the Architectural Profession without any resulting benefit…”. He concluded his speech to the delegates by asking the AIA board of directors to reconsider the changes and leave the term “supervision” in the AIA documents. The board was not moved and published the documents without Parker’s blessing.
Parker was like a dog with a bone. He would not let go. Almost six months later he self-published a pamphlet entitled SUPERVISION: An Argument for the use of the word “Supervision” in Article 38 of A.I.A. General Conditions. The pamphlet was endorsed on its last page by many architects from all regions of the country including Dean Hilfinger and Bernard B. “Rocky” Rothschild – both of whom later became long-term devotees to the drafting of subsequent editions of the AIA documents (and will be mentioned in future blog stories).
Parker’s Pamphlet with some of his notes. Provided courtesy of the AIA Archives
Next, Parker sent the pamphlet to the presidents and secretaries of all the local and state chapters. This caused a flurry of letters from and to the president of the AIA who continued to support the Clark changes to the AIA language.
Finally, early in 1962 William Stanley Parker was told that his services as a consultant were no longer needed by the AIA, and he was let go. Two years later Parker died at the age of 86.
In 1997, the AIA dropped the terms “observe” and “observation” from its standard documents because of constant criticism from plaintiffs’ attorneys who complained about the terms being weak and self-serving. Yet, they were not replaced with “supervision” as Parker recommended. Instead, the descriptions of the architect’s services in the documents have been expanded in detail and elaboration. They have since been left to speak for themselves.
Questions for the reader
Were Parker’s efforts worth it?
What motivated the leadership of the AIA to resist Parker’s efforts? Fear is a great motivator. What were they fearful of?
What if they had agreed with Parker, and they were wrong? See the next blog on Men in Dark Suits.
 The American Bar Association founded in 1878 was a necessary precursor to the formation of NCCUSL
 See Blog Story No. 9 in www.architects-tales.com
 The Louisiana Supreme Court’s opinion can be found at Day v. National U.S. Radiator, 241 La.288 (1961)
 According to The American Institute of Architects Official Guide to the 2007 AIA Contract Document, on page 35, the AIA even lobbied Webster’s in 1888 to make a real distinction between supervision and superintendence and to follow the example of the Oxford Dictionary, but to no avail.
 Copies of Parker’s pamphlet are available at the AIA Archives in Washington, DC
Story No. 25 for the blog, architects-tales.com, Copyright 2019 by Dale R. Ellickson
Many professions such as lawyers, doctors and architects have a rule of halves. The rule of halves is a restatement of the meaning of “median” in statistics: that is, in any group of people, half of them will be on one side of the median and the other half will be on the other side.
For aspiring architects, the rule is first encountered as students when they enter architectural school and are told that one half of the students in their class will drop out either in the first year or no later than before graduation. As Roger K. Lewis, FAIA, says in his book, ARCHITECT? A Candid Guide to the Profession:
“Anyone contemplating a career in architecture should know that statistically there may be less than a fifty-fifty chance of ultimately becoming a licensed architect.”
(In my class, the graduation rate was closer to 40%.)
But wait, the rule of halves does not stop there. Another one half will drop out before finishing the three-year apprenticeship and never take the licensing examination. The pass rate for the exam is currently 70%.
Only one half of those who obtain a license to practice architecture will stay in private practice.
And only one half of those who stay will form their own firms or become principals in a larger firm. Do the math and that comes to 1/16th , or only 6.25%, of all those who wanted to become architects will actually reach that highest management level of independent practice.
From the various AIA firm surveys over the years, a consistent pattern has emerged that showed 90% or so of architectural firms are small, with only one or two architects as sole proprietors. On the other hand, the remaining 10% of the firms employ the vast majority of architects working as employees instead of principals. Thus, the rule of halves continues to play out. … It bears mentioning that the Great Recession that began in 2007 has been extremely harsh on architects and recent graduates. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, employment in the architectural sector went from 190,000 in 2006 to 165,000 in 2011. That is a 13% decline – while schools continued to graduate 10,000 or more architectural students per year. Some prognosticators have predicted that the profession will continue to lose jobs into 2019, although recent evidence shows some modest gains in employment. These unemployment and graduation rates are certainly compounding factors that add to the drop out rate predicted by the rule of halves.
Of the 75 or so schools of architecture in the United States, some have already responded to the crisis by increasing admission requirements; diversifying curriculum to include other applied arts such as graphic, apparel, and industrial design programs; and lobbying to raise professional degree requirements for licensure to the master’s degree. Internationally, the situation is similarly distressing in Great Britain and Australia, where there has been talk of closing some of their schools.
The excess in architectural graduates chasing too few jobs has certainly depressed the starting salaries of new employees. An often-repeated black comment is that the architectural profession “eats its young” by taking advantage of the over supply of eager, young intern applicants.
Evidence continues to mount that after finishing their apprenticeship, fewer and fewer applicants are taking the Architectural Registration Examination (A.R.E.). In the state of Illinois, the registration board for architects has noticed a drop in the number of applicants from the previous year in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Finally, firm formation may be dropping as well. In contrast, during previous recessions those who lost their jobs would normally open their own, small practices – thus increasing the number of firms. We can only hope that the future will be better.
Questions for the reader
What can be improved in architectural education to increase the likelihood of graduation?
What happens to those who do not graduate in architecture? (In my school, the rumor was that they become civil engineers.)
Which is the best approach to educating the architect? Blondel’s project method? Beaux Arts’ jury method? Itten’s (Bauhaus) Vocker course? Gropius’ (Harvard) team approach? (My own education exposed me to all those approaches with varying results.)
-“When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. But when I’m finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know its wrong.”-
Story No. 24 for the blog, architects-tales.com, Copyright 2019 by Dale R. Ellickson
Giotto di Bondone[ (1266-1337 A.D.), a Florentine painter and architect, is regarded as the first in a line of great Renaissance artists. He is considered the father of Western art. For a thousand years before him, the style and subject matter of art was dictated by Christian precedence such that it required holy images of Christ and others to be presented in an idealized, two-dimensional forms. Giotto’s work broke with tradition by using naturalism and narrative drama set in pictorial space represented by primitive perspective techniques. He painted numerous frescos. His most famous works were the frescos for the upper church of San Francesco in Assisi and the Scrovegni (a.k.a. Arena) Chapel in Padua.
Giotto’s Bell Tower for Florence’s cathedral Santa Maria Del Fliore
He was also the designer for the campanili (bell tower) of Florence’s cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore. Giotto’s Tower at 277.9 feet tall incorporated elements from Gothic, Moorish and Classical styles as a precursor to the Renaissance. It was not the tallest habitable structure built up to that time – Alexandria Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was about 350 feet tall – but Giotto contributed to a trend that started in Italy to disengage towers and make them separate buildings (for instance see the leaning Tower of Pisa). Yet, there were practical limits to such towers due to their heavy, masonry construction and the wear on human muscles needed to climb up to those heights.
It took another five centuries until the invention of
mass-produced structural steel, concrete and safe elevators provided the means
for tall buildings to grow higher. Gustave
Eiffel’s 1,000-plus foot tower for the Paris Exposition of 1889 demonstrated the
new inventions to the world. Around the
same time, Burnham and Root Architects[i] designed
the last all masonry skyscraper in Chicago with 16 stories of exterior
load-bearing walls. It is known as the Monadnock
Building and is still in use as a hotel[ii]. Eiffel’s Tower held the record for tall
structures until New York’s Chrysler Building and Empire State Building (at
1,250 feet without spire) were constructed with steel frames in the
This was followed by a relatively long period of stagnation until the late 1960’s when Chicago again started building skyscrapers such as the John Hancock Tower (at 1,127 feet) and the Sears Tower (at 1,451 feet) – and New York City entered the tall building race with the twin towers of the World Trade Center (at 1,368 feet).
The Chicago and New York skyscrapers were made possible in large part due to new structural devices of glass-and-metal curtain walls, multi-story bracing, high-strength bolts, new steel welding techniques, bundled-tube design and light-weight floor trusses. (It was in part the use of light-weight floor trusses in the World Trade Center that contributed to the failure and collapse of the twin towers caused by terrorists’ attacks using separate passenger airlines on September 11, 2001.) In addition, wind and other environmental factors have received serious study using wind tunnel testing, etc. As a result, a new inertia-mass damper system using large pendulum-like devices have become more common in tall buildings after being introduced in the Citicorp Center Tower in New York City in 1977[iii]. Since then, the construction of tall buildings has shifted to countries outside the United States, but often led by American architects. Today, the tallest building finished in 2010 is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, at 2,600 feet tall. More are sure to follow.
Tall buildings to present
Returning to Giotto, what is known about his personal life
has come to us in bits and pieces. Some
two centuries after his death a brief biography about Giotto was written by Georgio
Vasari in his Lives of the Artists[iv], where
he describes Giotto as coming from a very humble, farming family a dozen or so
miles north of Florence. His talent for
drawing emerged at an early age, and he was apprenticed to Cimabue, an older
Florentine artist. Giotto had a
naturally sharp wit and could hold his client’s attention with amusing
conversation while continuing to paint.
He was friends with many other artists including Dante, the poet who
wrote the Inferno, which is contained
in his epic poem The Devine Comedy.
According to recent archeological findings, the excavation
of the alleged burial place of Giotto in the floor of Florence’s cathedral
found a male skeleton of a person of about four-foot tall. Someone described him as the ugliest man in
Florence or just plain short.
One legendary tale[v] describes
Dante’s visit to Giotto while they were perched high on a scaffold during the painting
a ceiling fresco. Two of Giotto’s children were playing and scampering around
the legs of the scaffold on the floor some thirty or more feet below. In an unguarded moment, that only a good
friend could have, Dante asked Giotto how he could have such plain children
when he could paint such beautiful people in his frescos.
Giotto quickly replied, “I made them in the dark.”
[iv] The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters,
Sculptors and Architects, Georgeo Vasari, translated by George Bull, Penguin
exact origin of this story could not be determined although some writers have
credited Vasari’s Lives, Boccacio’s The Decameron, or Sacchetti’s Tales – all of which mention Giotto.
This writer could not find the story in translations of any of those
Why would an architects’ office in Atlanta annually budget $900 for the purchase
of restaurant table cloths?
A common saying among architects is: as a side-business,
restaurants disproportionately attract them to invest their time and
money. Restaurants maintain their appeal
to architects because of their great diversity and their suitability to be
creatively molded into a unique experience.
So, was the office planning to start a restaurant? No, but
instead the architect, who was firm’s principal design partner, needed them.
This partner tended to arrange his very first meetings with
clients about new projects in a fine restaurant that had white, linen table
cloths. They had just the right
“tooth” for the architect’s ink pen to make drawings of the ideas
that were generated during the meal between the architect and client. The table cloths were also larger than napkins
and ideal to allow ideas to flow freer
and more expressively.
At the conclusion of the dinner, the architect would pay the
meal’s whole expense including the cost of the table cloth ($90). The design
partner would then carry the table cloth back to the office and throw it across
the drawing board of an associate; telling him or her to elaborate upon the
ideas drawn on it.
In sum, the budget was for ten, $90 linen table cloths – assuming there would be ten such meetings that year between the design partner and clients.
The importance of drawing in the practice of architecture cannot be understated. Ask any engineers about what they think about architects, and they will tell you, “They draw better than us.”
An architect’s drawings for a project often start with rough
sketches on thin tracing paper (called “bum wad”[i])
or on a napkin or even a table cloth.
These will be further refined and redrawn again and again with incremental
additions of more and more details during the various phases (i.e. 1. schematics,
2. design development and 3. construction documents), until the drawings are
detailed enough with numerous written notes to instruct the contractor about
the required results needed for the client’s project.
On the first day of work at an architect’s office for a
recent graduate or a new draftsman, a very common practice is for that person
to be assigned a low-skilled task – e.g. lettering the door schedule or drawing
toilet stall details. Typically, the
task will involve one of the drawing sheets for the final design, which is called
the construction documents phase.
A single sheet of working drawing at the construction documents phase (often mislabeled by non-architects as “blue prints”) may take up to several weeks (100 or more hours) of effort by a person to manually, or with a computer, complete the drafting, dimensioning and note writing. A large project may require 100 or more sheets of working drawings. (Multiply the hours by the sheets and it’s a lot of hours.) During a project, several people may work on the same document but at different times and with varying degrees of expertise. In addition, a separate, written specification about products, systems and procedures will be prepared by the architect as instructions to the contractor with greater detail than is normally possible to include as notes on the drawings .
To assure some consistency in the appearance of the various drawings,
it is common in some firms to require the new associates to practice printing
the ABC’s in all caps mimicking an example of letters given to them from the
hand of the chief draftsman or architect.
This practice session often goes on for hours, until the new associate’s
lettering is indistinguishable from the example. In this way, all the lettering on that firm’s
drawings will appear as if coming from a single hand with a single style. With
the aid of computers, lettering can also be standardized, but the effect often
appears stilted. Architects still use
hand drawing with pencil and paper, or even touch-screens, in the schematic
phase because the human mind/hand is more agile than the computer to show
changes and alternative solutions.
Another example, occasionally given in a school lecture, of
a low-skilled assignment occurred when a young intern was given the tedious
task of stippling the background for a series of large presentation drawings
that were scheduled to be shown to the client later that day. Stippling is a
technique of drawing dots in a random pattern to imitate a gray area, such as a
sky scene, to contrast against the dark images of the primary theme of the
drawing. It is done by tapping the lead
of the pencil like it’s a telegraph key – tap, tap, tap, tap … .
The new intern had three to four large drawings that had
already been mounted on 30” x 40” boards.
Closeted alone with the boards on the conference room table, he began
his tapping. Well, with no one there to
talk to, he soon became bored. Then and there, he decided to entertain himself
by stippling in a pattern that spelled two words, and when he finished that, he
stippled the spaces in between the letters believing the words would be
obscured – and they did disappear when viewed from his up-close position.
Just prior to the meeting with the client, the principal architect showed up and had the drawings placed on an easel tray against one wall of the conference room. When he took two steps back from the drawings, he and the rest of his team could clearly see what the intern had done. The words “B— S—“ popped out demonstrating that the human eye is sometimes too discerning – at least for the intern’s sake.
We do not know what happened next to the intern, but we can
Finally, new interns are often well trained in making models of architectural designs as that is part-and-parcel of their schooling. Unlike the low-skilled tasks described above, model making can be very intellectually rewarding as it shows the design, or aspects of the design, in three-dimensions. Interns are employed to help build models and frequently work side-by-side with a project architect. Some firms use model-making for all phases of the design process while other firms will only use models for presenting the schematic design to the client or public.
On two occasions, I visited the New York office of I.M. Pei & Partners[ii] by the invitation of one of the partners. Pei’s firm was responsible for design of the East Wing to the National Art Gallery in Washington, DC, the glass pyramid and underground gallery of the Louvre Museum in Paris, and numerous office buildings such as the John Hancock Building in Boston.
My first visit was in the early 1980’s when computer aided drafting (CAD) was in its infancy. My host escorted me around the drafting room floor where the low-walled office cubicles with drafting boards were in a ring zone near the windows. Inside the donut ring were the partners’ offices and a clean-room with elevated flooring that contained a massive computer used for calculations and some working drawings. Many of the office cubicles contained PC’s used for correspondence and specification writing. That work was saved on floppy disks. All the associates still worked on drafting boards. There were also numerous “study” models on desks and in corners used by the architects to test and show their ideas.
My second visit was in the early 1990’s showed a sea-change in difference. The physical layout of the office cubicles and the partners’ offices were the same but inside the donut ring the former clean-room was now occupied by storage boxes! Each cubicle still had a drafting board but in addition had two PC’s – one for writing and the other for CAD drafting. One thing stayed the same – there were still numerous “study” models scattered throughout the office. One caught my eye – it was an eight-foot tall scale-model of the great hall of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. James Freed, the design partner in charge of the project, was using the model to study lighting effects including shadows to establish an appropriate mood to be conveyed by the museum.
No doubt the future will bring more changes, including more
advances in 3D printing. Architects and
their interns will adapt and share new stories about their work experiences.
[i] Bum wad
is a term derived from the German Bauhaus school, which roughly translated
means toilet paper.
[ii] Pei changed the name of the firm to Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners in 1989
Roger K. Lewis, FAIA, wrote in his book, Architect? A Candid Guide to the Profession
that “there is an inescapable pressure on architects that motivates them but
can also produce feelings of jealousy or envy.
Professional jealousy can arise in all lines of work, but it may be more
keenly felt in architecture.”[i]
The following story was originally told by Frank Lloyd
Wright in his An Autobiography.[ii] It has been re-told here with additional
context, but in a condensed form.
Wright came directly from the campus of the University of
Wisconsin in Madison to work in an architect’s office in Chicago. Because of his intense desire to become an
architect, he had abandoned school where he had studied civil engineering[iii]. He saw Chicago as a good place to start. It
was 1887. The city was a bee-hive of
construction activity and new architectural innovations. He landed his first
job as a draftsman for the architectural firm of Joseph Lyman Silsbee. In a
year or so, Wright moved on to the firm of Adler[iv] &
Sullivan where he met his mentor, Louis Sullivan. (Sullivan championed the
phrase “Form follows Function”.)
Sullivan took a liking to Wright because of Wright’s
enthusiasm and his ability to mimic Sullivan’s flowery style of ornamentation
for such building projects as the interior for the Auditorium
Building, which was to be constructed
on a prime site on Chicago’s
Michigan Avenue. In a very short time, Wright was promoted
again and again until he became senior draftsmen. He was only in his early-twenties.
Sketch of 19th century draftsman
As may be imagined, the other draftsmen who had been with
Adler & Sullivan much longer than Wright became extremely jealous. One fellow thought that he had been wrongly
passed over for the senior draftsman position.
During lunch break one day, Wright lingered at his drafting board to
finish a drawing while most of the other employees left the office, except for that
one fellow who had the drafting board behind him. On this occasion, Wright turned around and
began having words with this jealous draftsman. Wright threw the first punch
breaking the fellow’s glasses. The draftsman quickly grabbed Wright and
violently began stabbing him in the back with a pen knife. He stabbed him again and again. The knifing
was only stopped when Wright pulled away and hit the draftsman in the neck with
a t-square knocking him out. When he
revived, the assailant fled and was never heard from again.
Wright’s wounds were numerous but shallow. Someone sent for
a physician who then arrived and helped bandage him. One cut, though, came
within an inch of slicing into his backbone. Wright could have been paralyzed.
A brilliant career of a young architect came perilously
close to ending too soon.
Questions for the reader
Why was Wright promoted so fast over other candidates for chief draftsman?
What could Wright have done to defuse the situation?
Are there any winners in contests involving jealousy?
[i] Page 28,
Architect? A Candid guide to the
Profession, Roger K. Lewis, The MIT Press, 1985, 1998.
100-102, An Autobiography, Frank
Lloyd Wright, Pomegranate Communications,1943
University of Wisconsin had no school of architecture until 1968.
[iv] Adler was a civil engineer who later championed the adoption in Illinois the very first licensure law for architects.
– “Sketch, sketch! If you can’t find anything else to sketch, sketch your boots!”
Robert Peabody, Beaux-Arts trained Boston architect (1845-1917)
Story no. 20 for the blog, www.architects-tales.com; Copyright 2019 by Dale R. ellickson
As the business day ends in an architect’s office, individuals begin to drift away from their drafting boards, computer screens, and model-building tables leaving in dribs and drabs. After 7:00 p.m., the drafting room is almost abandoned and silent, except for a few individuals who are pressing on to complete an assignment or to meet a deadline. Often, the enclosed partners’ offices are still occupied with the partners conducting informal discussions among themselves.
Customarily, in the after hours, one or more of the firm’s
partners will go from cubicle to cubicle in the drafting room to review the
day’s work of each associate. The next
day, an associate may find a sticky note on the cubicle desk or find hard
copies of his or her drawings marked up for changes in the red pen of a
partner. In addition, a few malingerers who are often the new and young staff —
will stay to wander the office looking into the various cubicles to quench
their curiosity about the work that is happening around them.
On one such occasion, a rising associate in a Michigan firm was
working late to finish a perspective sketch for a client. For the purposes of
this story, his fictional name was Rick.
Rick was a favorite of the firm’s partners — possibly
because Rick had developed a left-handed style of drawing that was quick and
convincing to clients. Rick preferred to draw with pencil and paper — eschewing
color or pen in preference for black and white — yet, his pencil strokes were
more like those of an artist using a brush. The effect was very atmospheric.
Rick developed his drawing techniques to compensate in part
for the absence of a working right arm.
Born in early 1900’s with a withered right arm, Rick’s parents had it
partially amputated to avoid any controversy or blame — that’s what they did in
those days. He developed a high degree
of artistic ability with his left arm as a result.
It so happened, according to myth, that a new staff person was exploring the office that evening when he spied Rick rapidly sketching at a drawing board. Slowly, the neophyte approached Rick from slightly behind, but still within Rick’s peripheral vision. After a brief exchange of hellos, the new person moved closer to Rick’s drawing to get a better look at it. “Wow, what beautiful work!” the neophyte spontaneously exclaimed. “I would give my right arm to draw like that.”